Anatomy of Word: Taking Word tables to the next level

We'll use this simple budget table for the examples in this article

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In part one of this three part series about Word tables, you learned the basics of creating and formatting tables in Word documents. You learned a lot about how to make tables look nice, how to add and remove columns and rows, and how to make sweeping formatting changes with just a few clicks of the mouse.

You've probably noticed by now how similar a Word table looks when compared with an Excel spreadsheet. That fact is Word tables and Excel spreadsheets share a few things in common, such as the ability to perform calculations on numbers in each cell. In this article, I will go over these similarities, as well as pointing out where Word tables fall short of Excel.

A little about this series

This series is broken into three parts:

  • How tables work
  • Using tables as mini-spreadsheets
  • Using tables to create professional-looking forms

Simple Word formulas

If you've used Excel very much, you're familiar with the concept of a formula that allows you to perform calculations based on information in your spreadsheet. A Word table provides you with similar capability, but nowhere close to the extent provided by Excel. In Excel, for example, you can create complex formulas that references information from multiple spreadsheets and manipulate the output so that it appears the way you like. Word can't. Bear in mind that Word is a word processor and Excel is a spreadsheet, so you shouldn't expect the tools to have features that stray into the other's area. With that said, Word does provide you with some capability to perform calculations based on information in your table.

Suppose, for example, you have the following budget table (above) that you want to include in a Word document.

Notice that there are two totals areas in the table shown here. One runs down the right-hand side of the table and the other runs underneath the table. The column at the right will hold values that indicate the total spending in each category while the row at the bottom of the table will hold values that indicate the total spent each month.